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View Diary: Housing Policy is School Policy? (30 comments)

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  •  Wonderful diary! (0+ / 0-)

    I went through mostly MCPS public schools (a few years out of the county), and I remember some of the discussion over the zoning issues there.

    MC is a wealthy and very liberal county full of gov't workers, well served by transit, with many mediumly dense areas within a large county.  Ride On buses co-cover with Metrobuses and the Metro Rail system.  Many treks are pretty manageable.

    The county gov't there runs the schools and libraries as a single unit, and seems to have a fair amount of power to move people and to get regional cooperation.  Also, because the District, Northern VA and Md. have to cooperate in a regional system, intergovernmental thinking actually happens as a norm, if not always easily.  Getting a center city to cooperate with the burbs in other circumstances might not be as easy.  LA?  Philly?  Chicago or Detroit?  I'm not familiar with all of the intergovernmental relations, but I would assume that the big city systems can't just export kids to the burbs because they are run by different local governments.

    So, yes it works in MC because there's a lot of cooperation, good resources, many talented people are drawn to the area as spouses of gov't workers, so the teaching staff is solid, too.

    I think that this kind of economic integration might not work as well in places where the tradition of segregation and white flight and conservatism is far stronger.

    Also, because of the Fed gov't, the basic job base in the region is pretty strong, so there isn't broad based economic hardship that might add to tensions.

    Clearly, getting kids into places where the teachers are responsive, the kid culture is pre-law and pre-Harvard from age 15 months (!!), the parents are pro-active with school plays, donations of supplies, and some general sensitivity is all good.  And even more, the parents don't react by white-fleeing even further out.....

    MCPS still managed some lousy teachers as I went through, but in general you didn't have two lousy teachers in a row in the same subject and so you could recover lost opportunities.

    I think I've come across some discussions of scattered-site public housing that suggest that it's enormously stressful on the families who are scattered.  They don't have great transit access, they are separated from family and the familiar, and many would prefer to be in far closer contact wit support services.  It's really hard to balance all of this but utterly worth finding multiple ways to get through it.

    We should want good schools for all kids regardless of the regional, governmental, and economic issues, and we should find ways to get city-center kids to function well academically even in the center of the city.

    Thanks for pointing out this article, and thanks for your diaries.  As I've said before, you have a really important perspective that needs to be part of the discussion!

    •  unclear about one line above (0+ / 0-)

      "single unit" means the county government, not the schools and libraries as one....  Because the county is a powerful unit, it can benefit from economies of scale.  Smaller gov. units lack this ability to shift resources.

    •  Thanks, Lissa... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lissa Drake

      you raise some really good points.  I want every kid to be able to go to their neighborhood school and receive a quality education.  Isn't it great that MCPS is getting accolades!  Sounds like a very good district and I can vouch for their students (you)!

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 05:23:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They started a really nice (0+ / 0-)

        program several years ago to teach reading in kindergarten -- it erased most of the race gap in reading!

        If you can catch the kids before the middle class parenting expectations leap dramatically, and if you can intervene before some of the underperformance attitudes creep in (either from peer pressure or from just finding out that you're already behind at the tender age of 6...), then you can do a whole lot of stuff with kids!

        Early words, less performance pressure, and more early words!

        By the way, I picked up a copy of the Ravitch book and I can say that thus far, she presenting a really really nice overview of education reforms over the years.  The stream of fads over time is half comical and completely tragic as we are still failing kids all over the place.

        What she does nicely so far is to apologize profusely for her embrace of accountability jargon since it just led to low level competence as the basis for our curriculum.

        If you look at the pass scores on state tests they always rise, if you look at the pass scores on the NAEP or on the ACT or SAT, not so great.  What the tests test for doesn't guide a strong curriculum.  And so even if the pass rates are 100%, 100% of nothing is still nothing.

        I think that's a separate issue from the fact that still way too few students can even pass the low level demands of these state tests.  So the race gap is a major issue, but getting all kids to pass tests that don't show more than the most basic concepts isn't really an education victory.  It's better than having half the kids fail, but it still doesn't mean that the h.s. diploma indicates readiness for the next steps in life.

        She does a nice job of running through the kinds of thinking that get people to go all corporate as THE answer, the kinds of political compromises that come from the fights over the content of curriculum.

        When national history standards were proposed some years ago, there were actual content statements and of course Liz Cheney (at that time head of NEH) went ballistic -- over the teaching of civil rights and women....

        So they dumped content standards and went right for test scores on tests with no content.

        Political compromise, quick fix, and dumb fads abound.

        Underlying much of this is a super strong distrust of a teacher's ability to adapt the latest method to a particular class or student.  There was some kind of reading program that seemed successful in NYC (district 2 of Manhattan) (don't have the book in front of me to name the curriculum) and at any rate it was a fairly scripted curriculum in which the teacher's desk has to be positioned just so, and the students have to ask themselves endless meta-questions about what reading strategy they are using at this moment (my younger one got some version of some of this wrt strategies and meta questions) -- scores went up.  Happy days.

        Except that scores went up as the demographics of the district changed and it got even richer and even more white and Asian.  And the race gap remained.

        So much for the method...which of course was exported across the country....

        This reading curriculum allows no teacher autonomy when it's enforced, and it's full of jargon, rigidity, and some really foolish shit.

        I'd definitely recommend a read of her book even if you have a fundamental distrust of her, as I do.

        She seems to be right that testing/accountability has overtaken curriculum and trust of teachers.

        Of course, she herself gave in to a fad, so I'm not going to defend her completely....

        But she is less than comfortable with a lot of methods including constructivism in math (Everyday Math is a constructivist curriculum), and this dumb literacy program the name of which I'm blanking on.

        No quick fixes, it's not a management problem or a lack of testing problem, or any other single problem that could be fixed with a wave of a Race To The Top bundle of money.....

        I would come down on the side of trying much harder to work with the developmental age of the kids (the middle school slide is real), and with setting up early elementary education so that there's no failure, no hardening of "I stink" attitudes, lots of chances to sustain effort and watch projects grow.  When something big comes out of a lot of small things, it's the best ego boost and self-esteem boost ever.

        Watch a kid learn a new music piece -- it starts out unlistenable, and unrecognizable and it becomes music after a while.  It's the best thing there is for kids!

        And I'd like to see more teacher autonomy from scripted curricula, more flexibility for teaching early math and reading, and of course, teachers with subject area degrees and specialization.  I don't really want a reading teacher to teach 3rd grade math, but some third graders still need fewer transitions in the day rather than more, so changing teachers can be difficult.  They can do math/science, and reading/language arts and have 2 teachers a day, along with gym and art....  The goal though is for the teachers to know the material well enough that they can explain the same thing in many many ways, can use insights from every fad curriculum as needed, can "season to taste" which is the most important part of a recipe!

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